Report from Toronto 2007

What do you get when you combine 100 families from all over Canada (and many from the United States) ... six sponsors ... an upscale hotel in Toronto ... the world's best experts on insulin pumps ... a sunny weekend ... kids eager to learn ... athletes and adventurers with type 1 diabetes ... and two dozen CWD staff?


The very first Canadian CWD conference!

The Marriott Toronto Downtown Eaton Centre was the home of CWD's 26th conference, Focus on Pumping, held August 17-19, 2007. About 250 people – mostly from Canada - participated in this weekend event. It was a wonderful mix of age groups and also a good mix of families with type 1 diabetes and health care professionals. For about ninety percent of the conference participants, this was their very first CWD event! We were so happy to meet all of these new parents, kids, and professionals, and to welcome them into our CWD family!

The conference began on Friday evening, as registration and the Exhibit area opened with a wonderful reception and social evening. The exhibitors were limited to our wonderful sponsors (on purpose – we wanted to highlight them and thank them for supporting this first effort in Canada). Representatives from the various companies spent the weekend with CWD families, discussing their insulin pumps and products, demonstrating new meters and data management systems related to pumping, and generally keeping conference participants up to date on the newest and best diabetes management tools available. Exhibitors included Animas Corporation, Disetronic Medical Systems and ACCU-CHEK, LifeScan, Medtronic Diabetes, Novo Nordisk, and SPLENDA® (McNeil Nutritionals).

Many thanks to Lisa Anstine and Mary Podjasek for staffing registration and getting everyone the correct t-shirt sizes once they arrived 'across the border,' and serving as the information checkpoint!

The conference was divided into several tracks for Saturday and Sunday, with the teens, tweens, and elementary aged children all heading off to their own separate areas, the little ones going to childcare, and the adults having both general sessions as well as breakout sessions more specific to advanced pumpers and beginning (or considering) pumpers. Dr. Henry Anhalt opened the conference with an informative, thoughtful, and sometimes humorous perspective on Why We Pump. In a second session entitled Continuous Glucose Sensing, Dr. Anhalt discussed the concept of continuous glucose monitoring, current continuous sensing systems on the market, continuous sensors in development, and why this type of management is critical to people with type 1 diabetes. Many families commented after Dr. Anhalt's sessions how much they appreciated his enthusiasm for helping kids and families with diabetes.

Dr. Anhalt introduced himself as a Pumping Convert. He related to the audience that several years ago, he was a pediatric endocrinologist who definitely did not believe in insulin pumps. And then one day, he looked at the scientific data in a report which landed on his desk ... data which showed that simply by wearing an insulin pump, one's A1c dropped significantly. That entirely changed his perspective, and he now is a very strong advocate for kids of any age being on pumps.

John Walsh presented Pumping Basics for those families who are just in the beginning stages of pumping (or considering a switch from MDI to pumping). As always, his excellent explanations helped many families understand what they would need to do in order to begin successful pumping with their child. In his Advanced Pumping Concepts session, John presented ways to address those very challenging diabetes management scenarios through the use of more advanced pump functions and dietary management.

Gary Scheiner presented two very pertinent sessions, Strike the Spike and Preventing and Managing Hypoglycemia. In these very informative and practical presentations, Gary discussed the mechanism of hypoglycemia (which affects all of us at some time and is tremendously scary), as well as the very frustrating post-prandial blood glucose highs which affect lots of our kids. He spent some time helping parents understand the concept of glycemic index and how that affects post-prandial blood sugars – as well as why it is important to use a food with a high GI when a person experiences hypoglycemia. As with his presentations in past conferences, Gary received excellent feedback from parents for taking some tough concepts and making them understandable in a way that parents could take home and apply.

Athletic Trainer (and pumper) Rick Philbin talked about managing type 1 diabetes in kids who are very active and involved in sports. His talks -- Exercise and Busy Kids and Pumps and Sports -- stressed how important it is to have a diabetes management plan when a person is active and involved in sports, and the talks gave parents some pointers on what to modify with their child's pumping regimen. Rick was also available throughout the conference (by appointment) to discuss individual protocols for athletic pumpers, and many families took advantage of this. Rick is wonderful in his capacity to help these athletes get past some of the hurdles of diabetes management to achieve excellent blood glucose control. Note that Rick also coordinates and authors CWD's Sports Corner, an online resource for athletes with diabetes.

CWD mom and advocacy expert Barb Marche, along with CWD's Laura Billetdeaux, presented Pumping In Schools: Making It Work. The facilitators initially polled parents and discovered that more than half were experiencing challenges with diabetes management in their school systems. The audience included a mix of parents and health care professionals (including several school nurses). By the end of the session, the group had compiled a list of Challenges in the Schools as well as a list of Potential Solutions to challenges, and these will be shared online as a starting point for continued online conversation with the group. A Canadian schools email network was initiated as a result of this session.

In Making Sense of Glycemic Variability, Dr. Kim Kelly explained to parents that current research indicates that damage occurs to one's body more as a result of roller-coaster highs and lows vs sustained high blood glucose levels. As a goal, we should all strive to minimize the variability in blood sugar as much as possible. After his presentation, Dr. Kelly then spent the rest of the conference working with his favorite group of kids: the tweens!

In response to feedback from other conferences, it was important to include some time talking about the emotional challenges of diabetes. No matter whether you are brand new to diabetes or whether you've been dealing with it for 25 years, it exacts an emotional toll ... sometimes it's hidden and other times it is evident every minute of every day in everything we do. Scott Scolnick – a family therapist and wonderful resource to CWD – took both a humorous and serious look at this topic in Managing the Emotional Challenges of Diabetes.

Teen program coordinator Natalie Bellini took time off from her very busy schedule with the teens to present Sunday's session, Selecting an Infusion Set. Natalie is known at CWD conferences for her no-nonsense (and sometimes very funny) presentation style, and she discussed the pros and cons of all of the infusion sets currently on the market in Canada. There are a lot. She also demonstrated how each infusion set works and looks when applied. Most importantly, Natalie stressed the importance of site rotation with infusion sets. This doesn't mean side to side, using the same two spots over and over. It means moving the set to at least several dozen different places on a person's body ... even if you need to use a permanent marker on a belly, leg, or behind to grid it out.

The teen group numbered about 25 this weekend! Their activities combined a mix of some very serious discussion led by Natalie Bellini and Jim Vail, with some very fun hands-on learning activities. One of the highlights was a group analysis of several huge bags of junk food brought from the local food court by the teen staff. Exactly how many grams of carb, how much fat, and how many calories are there in that big old bag of fries or that 40 oz slushie? The teens were surprised! That, of course, led up to Sunday's outing to – yes – the same food venues at the nearby Eaton Centre mall. Carb-counting by the group definitely improved over the weekend, and the teens demonstrated that they were quite good at this ... particularly with food court goodies!

On Sunday afternoon, for the last session of the conference, teens Elizabeth Vanover, Kenny Rodenheiser, Marissa Hitchcock, and Sam Billetdeaux served as the experts for the session called Beating Pump Anxiety: Meet the Kids. Any question was fair game, and the panel did their best to answer candidly. What's the scariest thing about pumping? What pump do you use? Why? Where do you put your infusion set? What do you wish was different about your pump? What do you do with your pump during sports? Where do you put your pump when you don't want anyone to see it? The teens were very well-spoken, as were the kids and parents in the audience who asked questions!

The tween group - ages 10-12 - had a wonderful mix of learning and fun. During the weekend, the Tweens met the Sports VIPs attending the conference. They had some great discussion with the athletes and also with CWD Dietitian Tricia Stewart regarding how to manage diabetes, diet, and exercise in a healthy way. The tweens spent time at the hotel pool with Canadian swimmer Jen Alexander. Also, Tween Program Coordinators Melissa Ringley and Kim Kelly led a rousing (truly!) game of Diabetes Taboo. You need to see this to believe it – and it is so much fun and so informative ... the kids really learn a lot (without recognizing sometimes that this is a learning activity)! Scott Scolnick also spent some time with the tweens discussing the challenges of being a middle school student, whether you have diabetes or not. The kids did a really nice job of sharing their feelings and taking this interaction seriously.

Both the tween and elementary groups participated in Scavenger Hunts which had them scouring the hotel and exhibit area - and interviewing CWD and hotel staff - for tidbits of information, some relating to diabetes, some not! This was a very hectic and fun activity for the kids ... and the hotel staff shared that this was a lot of fun for them as well. They loved interacting with our children.

The elementary age children, led by Lauren Lanning, Michelle Rago, Marissa Hitchcock, Brian Foster, and Elizabeth Vanover, enjoyed arts and crafts activities such as making conference picture frames and scrapbooks (including photos of your new CWD friends and autographs of faculty and friends), some very fun active time at the pool with Jen Alexander, discussion and play time with the Athletes, and interactive diabetes games. It was also very fun watching Miss Michelle and Miss Lauren – and Canadian bikers Johnny and Tom - trying to navigate the elementary group's obstacle course! And to top it all off – movie night on Saturday!

The youngest conference participants – ages 3-5 – spent Saturday and Sunday in childcare. The 5 year old group joined in many of the activities with the elementary age group, but also spent some quiet time and play time on their own!

Additional thanks go to AMG Medical for sending several hundred packs of glucose tablets – all of which were distributed to parents by Sunday afternoon! While staff and parents did, indeed, fight low blood sugar challenges as a result of lots of active play in the pool and out, it was a great experience for all of us to discuss and handle these challenges together. It encouraged a lot of sharing regarding what works with temporary basals, infusion set adhesive, fast glucose, identifying impending lows ... and somehow the challenges just aren't that discouraging when you face them with friends! Thanks also to BD and HTL Strefa for sending samples of their smallest single-use lancets -- they were wonderful.

Saturday night, thanks to the generous support of the sponsors, all of the conference participants enjoyed a wonderful and healthy dinner and some well-earned down time. It was a great feeling to just sit and chat with new friends about all the ideas presented during the day. There was so much new information; discussing it with others helped it make sense and sink in! After dinner, the younger kids changed into pj's and brought pillows and blankets downstairs to watch Pirates of the Caribbean or Little Mermaid. The adults had a real treat: presentations by some absolutely wonderful speakers, including mountaineer and adventurer Sebastien Sasseville, distance bikers Johnny White and Tom Baxter, distance swimmer Jen Alexander, and professional surfer Scott Dunton. George Canyon even dropped in for a few minutes via telephone - while waiting to do a sound check for his performance in Seattle! Several CWD kids asked George questions about his diabetes, and then every family received a copy of George's latest CD -- Somebody Wrote Love.

The teen group sat together during dinner, and then headed off for an evening of movies and fun nearby. They all made it back by midnight ... in time to get a decent sleep to be ready for Sunday!

CWD dietitian Mike Schurig once again spent months pulling together some great, healthy menus (and portion sizes and carb counts) for all of our meals and snack breaks. Mike even pulled together a wonderful gluten free buffet at each meal and snack time for those who needed them. It always amazes the hotel management and dietary staff that we spend so much time and effort on this particular facet of our conferences ... but it is probably the most important thing that makes families feel safe about spending the weekend at a CWD event. So, kudos to Mike for another job well done ... and to Tricia Stewart for helping supervise the meals onsite. And many thanks to the Marriott for following instructions down to the last letter!

CWD would not be able to hold conferences at all if not for the continued and consistent generosity of our sponsors. Many thanks to our Sponsors, including Animas Corporation, LifeScan, Medtronic Diabetes, Novo Nordisk, Roche Diagnostics, and McNeil Nutritionals. Their generosity in supporting this first Canadian conference and CWD families, as well as their passion for helping our kids and everyone with diabetes to lead a full and healthy life is extraordinary.

Finally, a big hug to the many people who helped out with this conference. You know who you are. We couldn't do this without you, and you have our most sincere thanks.

Families learned about the insulin pumps available in Canada, including Animas, ...
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... Accu-Chek, ...
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... and Medtronic.
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Denise, Devon, and Declan signed the conference Quilt Square
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Dr. Henry Anhalt opened the sessions, explaining "Why We Pump"
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Megan wore her infusion set in the arm
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Kids liked the multi-colored UltraMini
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Teens before heading out on Saturday Night
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In the final session, Sam, Elizabeth, Marissa, and Kenny answered questions about their experiences with pump therapy
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Last Updated: Sat Mar 08 16:28:12 2008
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